Someone’s been spying on our tech support group again

26 01 2006

C. Enrique Ortiz has a funny one that someone passed on to him:

Top 10 replies by developers when their programs don’t work:

10. ‘That’s weird…’
9. ‘It’s never done that before.’
8. ‘It worked yesterday.’
7. ‘You must have the wrong version.’
6. ‘It works, but it hasn’t been tested.’
5. ‘Somebody must have changed my code.’
4. ‘Did you check for a virus?’
3. ‘Where were you when the program blew up?’
2. ‘Why do you want to do it that way?’

and finally …

1. ‘I thought I fixed that.’





Canada’s oldest company goes American

26 01 2006

I hope that the shareholders get their value from their investment.  The Hudson’s Bay Company has been sold to Maple Leaf Investments, based in South Carolina, USA.  The oldest company in Canada, started in 1670 is now American.

Sigh.





Summary of my Hong Kong/China vacation trip blog entries

25 01 2006

It was a GREAT time. I would suggest that anyone thinking about visiting Hong Kong do so, and while you’re there do a tour to one of the nearby places like Vietnam, Thailand or China!

For just pictures: http://www.fotothing.com/albums.php?action=viewphotos&albumid=3107 

Day by day:
Hong Kong Day 1-3 (Dec 25-Dec 27 2005)
Hong Kong Day 4 ( December 28, 2005)
Hong Kong(Guangzhou) Day 5 (December 29, 2005)
Hong Kong (Guangzhou) Day 6 (December 30, 2005)
Hong Kong Day 7 (December 31, 2005) part 1
Hong Kong Day 7 (December 31, 2005) – complete
Hong Kong Day 8 (January 1, 2006)
I got to meet Jackie Chan!!!
Hong Kong Day 9 (January 2, 2006)
Hong Kong Day 10 (January 3, 2005)
Hong Kong (Macau) Day 11 (January 4, 2006)
Hong Kong Day 12 (January 5, 2006)
Hong Kong (Zhengzhou) Day 13 (January 6, 2006)
Hong Kong (Luoyang) Day 14 (January 7, 2006)
Falling behind – sorry
Hong Kong (Xi’An) Day 15 (January 8, 2006)
Hong Kong (Xi’An) Day 16 (January 9, 2006)
Hong Kong (Xi’An, Beijing) Day 17 (January 10, 2006)
Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 18 (January 11, 2006)
Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 19 (January 12, 2006)
Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 20 (January 13, 2006)
Hong Kong Day 21 (January 14, 2006)
Hong Kong Day 22 (January 15, 2006)
Hong Kong – Day 23 (January 16, 2006)
Things I learned while touring Hong Kong/China





Things I learned while touring Hong Kong/China

20 01 2006

Things I learned during my 3 weeks in Hong Kong and China

  • Chinese people are very gracious hosts
  • Hong Kong residents must be buying a new cell phone about every other week from the volume of business in Mong Kok area
  • Wrist watches – knock offs, are so common that people must own about 4 or 5 each.
  • Always try everything that is served to you.  You might like it.  (Note – the roaches…not so much)
  • Always try to fight for the bill, but let the host win.
  • Public transit, if done right, can be pretty painless.
  • Not all taxi cab drivers are East Indian.
  • While traffic in Hong Kong is scary, there are some unwritten rules that keep everyone alive
  • Traffic in Hong Kong is sane in comparison to Guangzhou
  • Bargaining is an intricate part of buying in China
  • You can find a street vendor who will you ANYTHING in China, if you look enough.
  • Dust and haze make for great sunset pictures.
  • Dust and haze ruin good landscape pictures, ergo it’s hard to take good landscape pictures in Chinese cities.
  • Life is all about who you know, and whether you can get in contact with them when it’s time.
  • Big families mean lots of dinners out when you visit.
  • 5 star hotels in China have no apparent standard which determines that they are 5 star hotels.
  • Chinese tours are cheap because they take you to a store for every attraction – Commission
  • Hong Kong people don’t dance.  Try finding a good dance club.
  • In China, if you need to get rid of something: burn it.  If that doesn’t work: burn it again.
  • Cash rules.  Credit is for Westerners.
  • In Hong Kong, if land is available it will have a 50+ story appartment building on it within the next 2 years.
  • 10 HKD T-shirts are a prime example of “You get what you pay for”
  • Fresh air is a different standard in HK than it is in Vancouver.
  • If you need something before 10:00 am in Hong Kong – tough 😦
  • If you need something after midnight in Hong Kong – No problem 🙂
  • Hong Kong emergency shelters start opening when daytime highs dip to 14C
  • Hang drying clothing does no good when RH is 80%

Those, I think, cover the main aspects of what I learned in HK/China

Edit: One important one….

  • A Nightclub is where a gentleman would go for company, (if you get my drift).  A DISCO is where one would go to dance if you could actually find it.




Hong Kong – Day 23 (January 16, 2006)

17 01 2006

Going home.

Today was an uneventful day compared to some of the other days, but it was 40 hours long!

We got up and got organized.  We packed the last of our bits and pieces into various corners of our luggage and washed the bedsheets and towels.  Then we waited for a bit as Maggie and Francis were coming by to take us to the airport.  They showed up around 1215, and we headed out.  We met Color quickly down in Central, as she had seen Mrs D’s other cousin and acquired the various Jackie Chan souvenirs. I had expected a signed book, but we also got 2 Jackie Chan pocket knives, 2 Jackie Chan T-shirts, and the signed book even had my name.  Wow!  Way more than I expected. I had been pretty happy just meeting him!  Then it was a last goodbye and many thanks to Color for everything, and we had to continue on our way.

Since we were in Central, we stopped for our last lunch in Hong Kong.  We went to a really good sushi place in IFC 2.  The fish was nice and fresh and they had some good variety.  The wasabi was freshly ground.  It had quite a kick.  We finished lunch with some red bean ice cream.  The ice cream was good.  The red bean part – not so sure.

By the time we finished lunch we had just enough time to get to the airport.  We checked in our bags.  One bag was about 18kg but two of them were 30kg!  Souvenirs.  Heh.  After the check in, we had to say goodbye to Maggie and Francis.  Maggie has been Mrs D’s good friend since high school and you could see she was unhappy about having to leave her.  One last time we had to fill out paperwork. This time it was “Departure Card” (Thank God we don’t do that between Canada and the US!) We moved on through the security point and were on our own.  We didn’t have a lot of time, so we didn’t really browse at the airport.  Our gate was 3 escalators, 1 train ride, and 2 people movers away.  Not exactly close.  We got to the gate with about 10 minutes to spare before boarding.  When we got on the plane, an airbus 340, it was smaller than the 747 we had arrived in, but that meant that our emergency exit seats were just the Mrs and I.  Our own private little seating area.  Nice.

We waited for a while and were wondering what the delay was.  Apparently 2 passengers with checked bags didn’t show up for the plane.  They had to find and remove their bags before the plane could take off. Grrr.  We left about 20 minutes late.  The flight was filled with babies/small children.  As we sat in the plane at least one of them was screaming at some time.  The plus side is that they would get tired soon, and fall asleep.  The flight was uneventful, and I played my game on the PSP, and listened to music.  The PSP battery lasted over 9 hours.  Impressive.

At 0900 PST, I started trying to act like it was 0900.  I woke up Mrs D and started trying get feeling like it was morning.  We arrived at the gate at 1220 PST, about 4 hours BEFORE we left Hong Kong – Bizarre.  As we left the plane, immigration officials were checking every passport. I’m guessing they may have been looking for the two that decided NOT to fly with us.  Hmmmm.  International excitement.  Customs wasn’t too long, and then we were off to get a cab and go to the garage where Mrs D’s CRV was.  The cab ride from the airport to about IKEA cost $20CAD!  I really miss the transport costs in HK!  It was raining in Vancouver, and had been raining for the past 27 days.  Apparently we just missed setting a record by one day.  Lucky us.  It had rained in Vancouver the entire time we were in Hong Kong.  In HK we had suffered a slight rain one day, but that was it. 🙂  After picking up the car we headed home to unpack.

Anne stopped by after work, and we showed her the various souvenirs we had picked up, and watched the hockey game (Oh how I missed my hockey!)  Then we went out for a nice dinner with Anne, to thank her for looking after Taffy so well while we were gone.  We had a nice meal of sushi and some noodles.  By the time we got home there was time to do a bit of laundry and go to sleep.  My trip was over.  It WAS nice to sleep in my own bed again, but I really loved the life in Hong Kong.  The city was so alive, and all our friends and relatives over there made it a trip of a lifetime! Thanks to everyone!  And thanks for reading the blog, and keeping up with us through our frantic travels!

Sorry – No pictures from today.





Hong Kong Day 22 (January 15, 2006)

16 01 2006

Today was the last full day in Hong Kong.  So, like every good person in Hong Kong we had to shop until you drop!

The day started out sort of poorly.  Since we had sent all our dirty clothes the laundry the day before, it didn’t leave anything for Mrs D to wear until I ran down to get the clothes.  I zipped down, and picked up the laundry.  Had my brief two word conversation with the cleaners, and headed back.  I got to the front door, and promptly buzzed up to the apartment.  No answer.  I buzzed again.  No Answer.  I buzzed persistently… No answer.  I backed up across the small street and hollered up.  No answer.  This was getting embarrassing.  Here I was standing in the street with a bag of laundry shouting at an apartment building at 0830 on Sunday morning.  I was probably NOT making many friends.  I walked over to the door again, and I heard Mrs D’s voice over the intercom!  Aha!  I answered back and she let me in.  It turns out that I had been buzzing 3/F, while even though the apartment is 3/F you’re supposed to buzz 4/F or somesuch.  Go figure!  I walked quite quietly past the apartment below us, knowing that I’d been buzzing them like crazy for the last little bit (Ooops!)

The laundry incident behind us, it was time to get out early and meet with Zoie and her family for an early morning breakfast dim sum at 0930.  We met over in TST, and had a really nice dim sum.  The service staff must have partied a bit hard the night before though, as they weren’t terribly quick.  In fact, Zoie got so tired of waiting for the ice water that I had ordered, that she went out, down the street, and got some for me!  Still no water from the restaurant 😦  It was a nice breakfast, and there was probably more talking than eating, as Mrs D got caught up with her aunt and cousin, and I bent the ear of Alex, telling him all about the China trip.  He was a good listener 🙂  1130, and we all had to get going. 

Since my new phone included a free engraving, we stopped in at the Motorola store, which was on the other end of Nathan St.  We zipped over by cab, and brought the phone in.  Three hours he says.  OK.  We’ll be back.

We were in an area that wasn’t too familiar to Mrs D, so we hopped a cab over to Auntie #1’s place.  She hosted us for a while and we chatted, had some oranges, and basically hung out. The outside of many of the apartment buildings in Hong Kong are pretty gritty looking, but on the inside, many people have very beautiful places.  Auntie #1 was one of those.  She had beautiful, old style hardwood floors, and more than enough room for two people. She had nicely decorated the place, and it was quite warm and inviting.  It was a nice visit.

Now came the ugly part.  It was time to shop, shop, shop!  We took a cab again, down to Mong Kok.  Cabs are quite inexpensive in this city compared to home.  It’s $15HKD for the first 2 kilometres, and then it goes up from there.  None of this $5CAD just to get in, and then start ticking immediately from there.

Mong Kok was crazy.  Sunday afternoon every tourist and local in Hong Kong was crammed into the smallest aisles, bumping and squeezing past one another as they scoped out all the goods being sold.  Of course as soon as someone saw something that interested them, they’d stop, and that would create a jam up, and then people would flow around them, bumping and jostling.  This continued on for about 5 or six blocks, and at one point our flow of people had to cross another flow of people.  It was like a physics experiment in Brownian motion.  people bumping, and redirecting everywhere.  I told the Mrs that if one MORE person steps on my toes, I was going to have to kill somebody, and I think the courts would find it to be justified homicide.  If a vendor had something with Winnie the Pooh, we had to stop, check out the goods, and either move on, or buy it.  Mrs D seems to be losing some of her Chinese talents.  A couple of items, she simply bought for the asking price! No bargaining, no haggling.  Just bought!  I was shocked.  I warned her that they will take away her record of Chinese heritage if she keeps this up 😉  We picked up another Hong Kong T shirt, as I realized that I hadn’t got one for myself yet.  They were asking 59HKD for it,or 2 for 110HKD.  I pointed out that if I gave them 55HKD, they’d be making the same per unit profit as if they sold me two.  Negotiations stalled.  We moved on.  We found another stall later that had them at a better price to start with anyway.  Ha!  Mrs D managed to find every Winnie the Pooh fake bathmat, shower cap, and other useless item that she could buy, and did.  She was happy.  Three hours later, I was exhausted.  I pointed out to Mrs D that if I didn’t get out of these crowds, and somewhere that I could rest, I wasn’t going to be very good company at dinner.  We grabbed a cab back to Auntie #1’s place, where I had a much needed rest.

Mong Kok market crowd:

Dinner was at 1900 at Luk Yu Tea House, down in Central, so we hopped in a cab with Auntie #1 and wound our way through the crazy Hong Kong traffic down to the restaurant.  We arrived around 1830, and Auntie #7 and her son were already there.  Luk Yu Tea House has been the restaurant of choice for Mrs D’s dad’s side of the family for as long as she can remember.  Family pictures usually were taken there, at dinners which included everyone.  Tonight’s dinner would see Aunties #1,7,9 and 10, as well as uncle #4.  Color and Andrew were there as well as Christine and Barry.  All together we had 13 people for dinner, and we all fit at one table.  This place was built to handle large families!  It was quite a feast.  Auntie #1 had planned the menu back when we first came here for Dim Sum back about a week ago.  Being the regular, and good patrons that the family is, we got the “preferred customer rate”.  Dinner was over at about 2130, and someone even suggested that Mrs D could continue on her shopping spree.  I killed that idea pretty quickly 🙂

We all walked over to our various transit options.  Bus, MTR, taxi: no need for a car in Hong Kong (especially if you don’t want an early heart attack). Home again on the good old 70, it was then time to pack.  And pack we did.  The Mrs arranged, and rearranged, and packed, and repacked until it all fit so neatly into our three bags.  I made sure we had receipts for as many of the purchases as possible, and started the Excel spreadsheet (calculators can’t handle numbers this big! Haha!)  We somehow managed to stay under budget for our Canada returning allowance.  It must have been all of my great bargaining skills (It certainly wasn’t hers).  We had everything all ready to go finally, and it was only 0130.  Time to sleep.

Here’s a picture of the standard downtown traffic crossing:  Notice how wide it is (the yellow stripes) and just how many people come bearing down on you from the other side of the street.  Quite the experience:





Hong Kong Day 21 (January 14, 2006)

15 01 2006

The second last full day here in Hong Kong was spent running around getting last minute shopping done, and visiting with relatives.  Today Mrs D picked up her HK smart ID card, and we met up with Andrew, Color and Larry for Dim Sum down in Times Square (actually UP in Times Square)  Lunch was on the 10th floor.  Many restaurants in Hong Kong are located in higher floors of buildings, due to the whole astronomical cost of real estate.  We picked up the Cell phones that we wanted to purchase.  It was nice to get that out of the way.

Andrew has a car, which is a bit of a mixed blessing in Hong Kong.  It’s expensive to go through the toll tunnels regularly, and gas is about $2CAD/L.  The nice part is that you can get to where you want to go, when you want, and that meant he could drive us to the BP International house.  The Scout headquarters in Hong Kong is located in Kowloon, and it is 7 floors of hotel, 1 floor of admin, 2 floors of meeting rooms and the Scout Shop on the top floor.   We watched a few meetings going on, and realized that they are pretty similar to our meetings (albeit with more leaders).  We also shopped around the Scout Shop for a bit, and picked up some badges, and a couple of key chains.

I knew we were going to dinner that  night with Color, Andrew and Larry but I didn’t realise that we were going to also go out to visit the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country club.  It was beautifully located on the bay, and in the Yacht club there were boats that easily would put you back 500,000 CAD.  The water in the marina was crystal clear.  We saw zebra striped fish, and horizontally striped fish (Microcanthus strigatus) We saw neon tetras, and large schools of really small fish that were obviously going to be food for the bigger fish around. On the bottom were large sea cucumbers and huge sea urchins.  We even watched for a while as a cuttlefish no longer than my thumb tried to catch the small fish in their schools.  We watched schools of pomfret glide and dart around effortlessly with their cool little crescent shaped fins. It was very relaxing.

Mrs D and I, in the setting sun, with Cheung Chau in the background:

After a drink at the small restaurant, we headed across the small peninsula to a little fishing village called Po Toi O.  This village pretty much is now two restaurants, and some old people selling dried fish.  The restaurant we ate at was located on the pier.  We met up with Carmen and her husband, and Jeanette and her daughter.  The nine of us feasted on Crab, lobster, prawns and fish.  Good Seafood!  It’s been a while.  It was a great meal, and there was a full moon over the bay to accent the beauty of the environment. 

We ate until about 2030, and then Andrew drove us home.  They, like Maggie and Francis, and Christine have been great at making sure we get where we’re going, and that we saw Hong Kong!  Thanks guys!

We’re running out of time here in this amazing place.  I definitely have to come back.





Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 20 (January 13, 2006)

15 01 2006

Beijing – End of tour

We started the day knowing that it was to be our last in Beijing.  The weather had brightened up, the the sky was blue, and the sun was making it through the smog and dust.  It was like Beijing was trying to make sure that we remembered our trip in the best possible light.  It was still a cold day, but very nice.

Breakfast at the hotel for the last three days was a buffet mixing western and asian breakfast dishes.  I had become so used to using chopsticks, that when I started to eat my scrambled eggs, I naturally picked up the sticks.  I can see why Scrambled eggs isn’t a big breakfast item in China 🙂  I used a fork for the first time in a long time that breakfast.

First on the agenda was Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven, or more correctly named: The Altar of Heaven.  It was the location at which the emperor would offer sacrifices to the gods of heaven three times a year.  The one at the winter solstice happened at 0420!  This complex was larger than the Forbidden city, approximately 270 hectares, and included an beautiful park which had many locals playing games, and enjoying the birds, and sun this morning.

Apparently the reason it’s bigger than the Forbidden City is that Emperors considered themselves the “Sons of Heaven”, and as such dare not build a home for themselves, bigger than they have built for heaven.

One of the first things that strikes you when you enter the grounds is the blue, round roofs on the buildings you see.  They were meant to represent the heavens.   After going in the main gate, you arrive at the location of the sacrifice.  It is a large round altar platform. The Circular Altar has three layered terraces with white marble.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 A.D. – 1911 A.D.), the emperors would offer sacrifice to Heaven on the day of the Winter Solstice every year. This ceremony was to thank Heaven and hope everything would be good in the future.  Interesting trivia:  If you are about 6 feet tall and stand on the middle of the altar disc, when you speak your voice will have an added resonance, and depth.  Cool acoustic effect.  I wonder if they planned it that way.  Near the altar were various offering cauldrons where they would burn sacrifices.  It was quite the set up.  We got to see diagrams (copied from ancient texts) of exactly where which musician would stand, and which dancer would be where.  It was a VERY choreographed event.

Further in, past the inner wall, we came up to the Imperial Vault of Heaven, where all the texts were stored which prescribed the various ceremonies.

Around it was the “Echo Wall”.  If you stood next to the wall behind the west annex, and talked softly, you could be heard by someone standing next to the wall behind the east annex, 30 metres, and two buildings away.  All kinds of interesting acoustic features to this place.

The actual Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest was closed for restoration (darned 2008 Olympics preparation)  But We got some distance photos of it:

The park on the west side of the complex is very large.  We walked through it to get to the Hall of Divine Music Administration.  Walking through the park, I finally got a picture of one of the many Azure Winged Magpies that I had been seeing flit around:

The Hall of Divine Music Administration had a musical museum, and an english speaking (thank God!) tour guide talked us through the various instruments used by the musicians during the offering ceremonies.  Quite elaborate.  They also had on display various clay musical instruments from neolithic times, and various Dynasties (Spring and Autumn, East Han, West Han….)  It was very interesting.

When we left the Temple grounds, we saw vendors selling caramelized fruit on a stick.  It made for a great picture:

The last stop on our tour of China was Tiananmen Square.  Made famous around the world by events of 1989, it was originally built back in 1417.

The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian’anmen to the north. 

Mrs D and I in front of the Tiananmen.

Bordering to the south is the Qianmen (literally “Front Gate”) to the south. Along the west side of the Square is the Great Hall of the People.

Along the east side is the National Museum of Chinese History. Chang’an Avenue, which is used for parades, lies between the Tian’anmen and the Square. Trees line the east and west edges of the Square, but the square itself is open, with neither trees nor benches.  There is a monument to the peoples’ heroes in the center, and many local and foreign tourists milling about. 

While at the square, one Chinese student asked to have his picture taken with me.  It was strange, but I happily obliged.  Later, as I was walking around the square, someone started talking to me, and it wasn’t one of the ever present vendors.  This young man started a conversation with me asking how long I will be in Beijing, and have I enjoyed the city.  It caught me off guard, but I talked with him for a bit, and then carried on with my photographing of the square.  I found out later that the students like to look for English speaking tourists to talk with, so that they can improve their English.  I hope I helped.  As we crossed the street away from the square, I asked our tour guide if this was the street that had the famous footage of a lone protester blocking a column of tanks.  He told me that they had never seen the footage.  I had forgotten about that little detail.  Ooops.

We had a nice lunch in what appears to have previously been a government building, and then we left Beijing to travel to the airport.  Even the tour guide commented that I appeared to be trying to drink in every single little feature before we left.  I wanted to be able to remember it, as it will continually change, and it will never be like it was in the early days of the revolution, or like it was today.  China is a rapidly growing economic powerhouse.  Once it gains more traction in the world markets…. Look out!

We said goodbye to Tom, and went into the departure area.  Every man and his dog was traveling in China in preparation for the lunar New Year, and it was just going to get worse.  We went to our gate, and waited for our plane.  The plane ride was via China Southern, and was on a 757-200.  It was full, and the air circulation was bad.  3.5 hours, and I was going to go crazy.  I did have a chance to write another day of the blog, but that was it.  It was just too hot and crowded to do anything else.

After arriving in Hong Kong we took the bus back to “home”, and I hauled our 30kg luggage up to the 4th floor apartment….Whew.

Then…. crash.  Time to sleep after uploading photos.  I still can’t get caught up!





Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 19 (January 12, 2006)

14 01 2006

Ming Tombs and the Great Wall

Today had two major attractions planned.  The Ming tombs and the Great Wall of China. As usual we headed out of the hotel around 0815, and we promptly sat in the dead still traffic, with gentle snow falling around us.  Despite the snow and the fact that 1 in 3 families in Beijing own a car the bicycle is still one of the favored modes of transportation.  People kept biking everywhere, just with more clothing.

We crept along at just below a snail’s pace, until we had significantly cleared the city, at which point the traffic thinned finally, allowing us to actually move at a more normal pace.  It took over an hour to get to the tombs.  IT was snowing at the tombs as well, and the footing was quite slippery.  The snowfall seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of many tourists, which meant that the area was much quieter, leaving some great winter scenes:

The tomb we visited is the 10th of 13 emperors entombed on the grounds, and was build in the 1600’s.  The actual burial chambers had high vaulted ceilings, and were made from large blocks of granite(?)  The door to the emperor’s burial chamber was composed of two marble slabs, about one foot thick, and probably 4m high, and 2m wide.  HUGE.  In front of the burial chamber was a long corridor in which lay large marble chairs. One for the emperor, and one for his empress.  The tomb had two side chambers which were intended to hold others, but were never used.  This must have been frustrating for the builders.  Build two large rooms, that never were occupied.  The Front door to the tomb had a large copper clad door, with the standard imperial 81 studs (9×9), and the whole thing was buried under ground . 

There was a large ramp leading down to the door, and the whole thing (ramp included) was covered with dirt, including a direction stone.  In front of the tomb, some distance away was a large tomb marker (large meaning 5m high, and 2m on each side.  LARGE) bearing the emperor’s name, and an inscription in Chinese.  This obviously was a good help to those looking for tombs to excavate 🙂

Since this tomb was discovered completely undisturbed, they found many gold artifacts.  Gold bowls, gold coins, gold ingots even.  I wonder at what point the Chinese began to value gold as a “precious” metal, rather than the copper and brass which had been so common in all the relics we had seen to date.

After the tombs, we were taken to yet another sales pitch.  This time they pitched some herbal cream to help lessen pain in joints and muscles.  Mrs D bought some cream at what seemed to me to be a high price for something that looks and smells just like tiger balm.  Lunch was good, and we were served some 56% alcohol in little shot glasses.  That’ll keep you warm in the winter!

From lunch it was off to the Great Wall at Juyongguan pass.  We arrived at the wall, and it was still cold, but it had stopped snowing.  It was 1500 when we were allowed to head up the wall at will.  I told Mrs D that we had better bet going if we were to get up the wall.  We had to be back by 1600.  Only one hour to get up and down the wall, and it seemed to go STRAIGHT up the mountainside.

Mrs D and I hiked together for awhile and we watched various tourists almost wipe out a number of times.  It was at this point that I wished that I had brought the day hikers from the hotel.  All this way I carried those boots, and I forgot to wear them for “The Wall”.  Sigh.  After about the second watchtower, and some serious elevation gain, Mrs D decided she had had enough.  I refused to give in. I had come all this way to the great wall so I was going to hike it to the end of the segment that we could hike.  I reluctantly left her there and continued my hike.  The stairs were very slippery and I watched a few people in dress shoes almost totally wipe out on their butts.  The wall got pretty thin in places, and people going down and people going up had some tough challenges passing each other.  Downward took priority as it was they that were having the hardest time keeping a grip while stepping down onto the icy steps.  I made a note to myself to watch out for the way down.  Since it was cold and snowy the number of tourists was definitely low. This was a good thing, as if there were more, we’d definitely have some injuries. 

As I got higher up the wall, the crowds thinned, and it was pretty much down to me, a Korean  woman, three Germans, and a Chinese couple.  We hit the end of the hikable wall at about the same time, so we took turns having each other take pictures of ourselves.

Having rested a bit at the top, I realized I’d have to hoof it if I was going to make it down to the bus in time. I decided to count the steps as I went.  I was going pretty well, until I hit one step that suddenly became four.  I could feel the sockets in my shoulders pulling as I strained to keep from having a bumpy ride down to the next watchtower.  Got to be more careful!  I walked much more cautiously after that and still managed to wipe out about 6 times. I stopped for the odd photo while going down, but mostly hurried down, and met up with the Mrs part way down.  We zipped down, and were just about the last to get back on the bus.  Everyone else had had enough of winter.  LOL!  -2C at worst.

I made it down the wall 50 minutes after going up.  I counted 1524 steps on the wall.  It was a 230m gain.  By the time I got to the bus my shirt was soaked from sweat.  It definitely had been a good workout. 

Padlocks symbolizing good health tied with a red ribbon and with a family or couple’s name inscribed, attached to the wall:

The ride back took us to dinner, and then back to the hotel.  Blog updates, and nice Irish coffee in the lounge that night.  Then it was off to bed at a much more reasonable hour.

Photos at http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/d8460e471f3ba753fa0ec3813a66a5dc/

What would  a trip to a non English speaking country be without a funny translation on a sign:





Hong Kong (Beijing) Day 18 (January 11, 2006)

13 01 2006

Beijing.

In the morning it was nice not having to pack all your belongings up and get ready to go  again.  This time we only had our day traveling stuff as we were staying in the same hotel again.  Of course, this meant that I’d be paying for Internet access again that night. 😦  We got up at 0630, and were into the routine pretty well by now.  At 0700 the wake up call came, and by 0730 I had the laptop locked safely away in the luggage, to continue its file transfers that night.  We seem to be taking pictures faster than it can transfer.  I noticed at this point that we had taken over 4GB of pictures!  We headed down for breakfast, and it was a buffet.  The food was good, albeit a strange mix of western and asian cuisine.  I mean do Chinese people really eat pork ribs in black bean sauce for breakfast??

The trip to the summer palace was slow (Beijing has a REAL traffic issue – It will be interesting to see how they handle 2008).  When we got there, it was quite large, and at the entrance to the palace it was guarded by a Kylin.  A mythical beast.  Cool looking and likel to scare away any evil spirits looking to get in.  The Emperess Dowager Cixi controlled 3 Emperors through their reign, and really was the powerhouse in the Chinese Imperial scene, using the emperors as puppets to do her will.  The palace was the usual assortment of Chinese buildings with a twist.  Cixi had the reservoir that was already there enlarged.  She  had 100,000 people work on the project. 

View from the lakeshore:

Gotta love being in power!  (And subsequently hate being a peasant!) On the lake was a “boat”.  Cixi had a boat built out of marble.  She liked the grandeur of it. 

If you were looking for excess in the imperial life, she was the poster girl!  Many foreign dignitaries visited during her rule, and there was quite a collection of western objects.  She also really like photography, so we got to see photographs of her in her summer palace in 1903/04.  Not colour, but very cool, 

One of the striking features of the palace is the “long hall” or Long walk.  It stretches for 728m, and every beam has a different art scene painted on it.

Two cross beams:

The idea is that you could walk along it, and enjoy the cool breezes off the lake.  The art work was of birds and trees, and some of the pictures described the various stories of old.  It seems also that one of the emperors that used the summer palace wanted to keep his concubines happy while he attended to imperial duties.  Since they liked to shop, he had a shopping street built into the palace grounds.  All the stores were designed to look like a real shopping street.  He named it Suzhou St.  The interesting part about this street is that all the goods in the stores already belonged to the emperor, and all the staff in the stores were imperial staff.  The concubines were buying things, and trying things on that they already could have without buying.  But, I guess if it keeps the ladies happy, that’s what’s important (then and now).

From the Summer palace, we headed to the Forbidden City, The imperial palace in Beijing.  It was immense!  Hall after hall, plaza after plaza.  Ornately decorated bridges.  Since we were visiting in the middle of winter, the tourist numbers were quite low, and I could even get some pictures that made it look like we were the only ones there.  The big thing about the forbidden city is its size.  It really was a small city all by itself, employing a multitude of staff to serve one man.  We toured the city from the South Gate to the North Gate, and proceeded through the different levels of the palace.

We saw huge brass cauldrons for holding water in case of fire. The invading Anglo-French armies thought they were gold, and tried to carry them away.  When they couldn’t carry them, they settled for scratching off what they could.  There were ornately decorated halls of Heavenly Purity, Earthly Purity, Union and Peace.  All designed to bring a harmony to the building layout.  The forbidden city is famous around the world, and was the scene of filming Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor”  I have to go see it again, now that I have been to the grounds.  Breathtaking in the magnitude of its construction, the Forbidden City is truly remarkable. 

Incredibly it was only open to common people after 1949.  During the imperial days, no commoner was allowed into the city.  It must have felt something like this:

It was a short walk across to the park to the North of the City where in 1644, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty hung himself.  There was a peasant uprising, and he escaped the palace to the park.  While in the park he wrote a testament edict, and realized his best days were behind him.  In order to avoid the humiliation of being overthrown, he hung himself from a Chinese Scholar tree there.  Someone seems to have chopped the original tree down, and as such the ingenious Chinese have planted another in its place and put a plaque there.  Seems odd – Here is the tree that we planted to replace the one that was here, where an Emperor hung himself.  Meh. It was still interesting. 

Our tour guide suggested that we take advantage of the reputable tour service outside the park to take a bicycle rickshaw tour of the hutongs.  At 60RMB/person for an hour it seemed like a good price. I’m sure our driver/cyclist was thinking “Why did I get the big Gwai Lo?”.  The tour took us through the various winding alleys that make up the “hutongs” in Beijing.  They are small communities that are built in what used to be a Ming Dynasty Official’s home.  Back in the Ming days it held one family. Now it holds about 30.  We stopped at one point, and our (thankfully) English speaking guide talked about the history, and the Feng Shui that went into the design of the Ming home, including the outer walls, and various design considerations to keep out zombies and evil spirits.  We went in, met a lady who is a resident and were treated to some tea and snacks.  We had the opportunity to ask her many questions about her living conditions, and environment etc.  Nice to get to talk to a “local”.  After the meeting, our drivers whizzed us through the alleys, avoiding school kids, dogs, bikes and cars with some close calls along the way.  1700 we were back at the start, and it was time to go have dinner.

Dinner had been hyped for a while.  It was going to be “Peking Duck”.  Meh.  I like our Vancouver Peking duck better.  So, dinner was a bit of a let down.  We were running a bit late after dinner (Beijing traffic again), so we arrived to our acrobatic show, as it had just begun.  These guys and girls were incredibly nimble, and jumped through hoops, balanced one on the other using one hand, and did all kinds of contortions with their bodies that make you say “Ouch!”  A great show, it lasted about one hour. I took a lot of pictures.

Acrobat/gymnast balancing on a pole.  Great control:

It was easy to forget that these guys weren’t alive.  They were so well handled.  Lions:

Chinese Bicycle equivalent of “How many people can you fit in a Volkswagen”:

From the show it was home to the hotel, and a chance to write up previous days again.  I paid my 80RMB for Internet access, and got to sending my pictures up to the photo blog and home.  I got to bed at a very reasonable 2330 that night.

Pics:  http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/bc841294c4e868fe79c03c2348c6826f/





Hong Kong (Xi’An, Beijing) Day 17 (January 10, 2006)

12 01 2006

Xi’An to Beijing

Today we were see the last few things we could see in Xi’An. The city and area is full of interesting ancient things to see, and we could only see a handful.  The place is an archeologist’s dream!  We headed out to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Great Goose Pagoda).  It was built in 648 AD to commemorate the monk Xuanzang having travelled to India and returned with various sutras.  He spent many years afterwards translating them into Chinese.  The pagoda is quite tall at 210 feet, and is built of brick.  This, to me is an engineering wonder for the people 1400 years ago.  I dunno, it SEEMS tough.

The sun was fighting through the dusty haze that we have been experiencing while here, and it gave me a great opportunity for a picture of it shining through a scholar tree, in front of the temple building (Ci’en Si).

From the Pagoda, we travelled a fairly short distance to the Stellae Forest. This museum was build in 1047 AD to house recordings of the works of confucious and others. It even contains a glossary of characters, which is incredibly useful to historians studying the texts.  There are over 1000 Stellae (stone tablets) here, and the “writing” style varies from “seal style” to full cursive script.  It’s hard to imagine how they carved these writings.  They have the Narrowing script nature, and even have little dots etc.. Very detailed. 

One of strange things we came across while here was people making impressions of various stones, and selling the image.  They would place paper on the stone, and then tamp on it with an ink blotter. After that they would remove the paper to dry, while they started another.  This is on stone carvings that over 600 years old!  Ack!  This would never happen in North America.  It’s odd to see how the Chinese treat some of their relics.  Sometimes the items are in easy touching range and the oils and wear and tear is obvious.  Sometimes they keep them behind glass, and other times they use them as if they were regular tools in a printing industry.  Truly a country of contradictions.

Printing from an ancient tablet:

On the way out of the museum, there were three ancient statues of Buddhas which really were quite good carvings.  There were descriptions in chinese about how they were excavated, and moved to the museum. They were in a dimly lit rooom, and they dindn’t allow photos, but I stuck a quick one in:

There was also a statue of a horse from 427 AD.  I like it.  It was simple, but with strong design lines.  This was one of the items that was within touching distance, just behind a railing.  1600 years old!  Ack!

Horse Statue:

That was all we could see of Xi’An. Our time was up 😦  On our way out of Xi’An I got lucky and caught a good shot of the bell tower in the city:

We left the forest, and had lunch near the airport.  Then it was off to the airport to catch our flight to Beijing.  Here we had to say goodbye to our local tour guide, Siu Pan, who had done a great job of keeping things interesting, and making sure that we were looked after at the various locations.  She even sang for us, a classical Chinese folk song, when we had a long distance to travel once.  Ticketing and luggage handling was all handled by the tour guides, so all we had to do was go in, and wait for our plane. 

Xi’An aiport was clean, and efficient.  They had quite a few places where you could buy souvenirs and books if you hadn’t bought them from the hundreds of souvenir hawkers at the locations.  Strangely, you could buy fruit at the airport too.  Go figger. The flight to Beijing was about 1:45, which gave me enough time to update the blog text for the 9th. It’s tough work keeping up!

Upon touchdown, we did something I haven’t done in over 30 years.  We deplaned on the tarmac!  One of those little rolling staircases came up, and we went down to an awaiting bus.  It appears that Beijing’s air traffic has grown faster than its airport.

After getting our bags,we were met by our local tour guide in Beijing, Tom.  He was a nice fellow, and like our Xi’An area guide, couldn’t speak much English.  He knew a few words though, which I think put him ahead of Siu Pan in the English department. 🙂  Our bus, this time, was a larger coach style bus, so we all had 2 seats to ourselves.  Luxury!  From the airport, we were supposed to go to Tian Tan, and then to dinner and the hotel.  Beijing traffic had other plans for us.  It appears that not only has air traffic outgrown the city capacity, so has their road traffic.  What a traffic jam.  Because everything was running so  slowly, and the early winter night, we had to postpone Tian Tan to another day.  I hope we don’t get rushed through it, as it seems quite beautiful from what I read in the tourist book.

It took almost 2 hours to get to the restaurant.  We ate dinner, and then another 45 minutes or more to get to the hotel.  The hotel, the Beijing Xianyuan Hotel is a five star hotel (not sure whose rating system they use).  It was very nice.  The lobby was opulent, and the staff quite attentive.  We got up to our room on the 18th floor and found we had a little enclosed balcony even! I plugged in my PC, and started to get connected.  I couldn’t get anywhere.  I tried to troubleshoot but couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I called the front desk.  Apparently, unlike all the other hotels we had stayed at (Only four star supposedly), this one charges for Internet access. Wha???  80RMB/day.  Not only do they charge for Net access, but it also costs 50RMB to swim in the pool.  I think “five star” means “Charge extra for everything”.  This was dissapointing.    Other than these problems, the hotel is quite nice.  If I were travelling by myself, however, I would definitely shop around to try and find one that had Internet access included in the room tariff.

That was it for the 10th.  We’re definitely coming up on the end of the trip with our arrival in Beijing.  It’s a bit saddening.

As usual, pics at http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/34d6927eeca6f869e59bc06fe84ac71e/





Hong Kong (Xi’An) Day 16 (January 9, 2006)

11 01 2006

Terracotta warriors!

Today we were going to get to see the famous Terracotta warriors! I was excited.  We had to do some other things first, but THEN it would be the Terracotta warriors!

We headed out first to a Museum which housed some relics.  It turns out these relics were 6000 years old.  There was a fishing village near where the museum was, and the remains of the village were from 6000 years ago.  http://www.chinamuseums.com/ban_po.htm There were excellent examples of pottery, and many of them had very good designs.  One had a fish:

There were also some very fine articles, such as these bone needles:

We also saw shards of pottery with writing on them.  The oldest known written letters!

From the museum, we headed off to the terracotta factory.  At the factory we learned how they made the warriors, and some of the basic principles in their construction.  Then – it was sales time.  Salespeople descended upon us, and were right there with you to make sure that every possible answer was given to any question you might ask.  If you even looked at something with interest the salesperson told you all about the article’s virtues, inside and out.  A bit annoying.  We purchased a book about the terracotta army, and some replica figurines for the home.  Then we were glad to get out!

Our next stop was the Huaquing pools.  It had been originally built over 3000 years ago, by King Youwang of the Zhou dynasty and was at the time known as the Lishan Palace.  Later Emperor Shihuang built a home, and called it the Goddess Hot Springs.  Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty extended it, and Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty built halls around them.  Later in 1936, the Xi’An incident saw Chiang Kai Shek arrested by his own troops.   Bullet holes in the wall and window from the Incident:

The area was large, and apparently they only have restored/unearthed 10% of the original area.  The ancient palace grounds were huge!  One of the famous items at the grounds was a statue of Xuanzong’s concubine, Yang, as she was known as one of the four most beautiful people in all of China:

Interestingly, one of the things that had many people’s attention was the fact that the pool with the statue of Yang had frozen almost solid, and as such the goldfish were in peril of being frozen in ice.  It was comical watching people try to catch the goldfish, and rescue them from their icy death:

After lunch, it was out to see the Terracotta army.  I can’t even begin to describe it in words, or in pictures.  It is truly stunning!  Soldiers, Generals, Chariot drivers, Archers, Horses.  Every single one of them each had their own individual facial expressions, and hair styles. There are over 7000 of them! There is so much on the ‘Net about the army, so I would encourage you to head to the various sites to see more information. http://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLG,GGLG:2005-44,GGLG:en&q=terracotta+army  Here’s a couple of pictures to pique your interest:


More are available at the blog: http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed/photo/97791d68cc109bed6bf4568292625cf3/

2 hours of terracotta army,and we were off again.  This time, we were going to the Xi’An wall, A 25km rectangular wall which encircles the core of Xi’An.  We arrived as the afternoon was waning.  It made for some good pictures, which I hope to post one day later.  After a few pictures, we went inside, and were given a talk about Feng Shui, and how the various things affect peoples lives, particularly the dragons,lions and dogs that are used to protect homes and buildings in China.  Then it all came out… That was a sales pitch to get ready to sell you little jade, quartz, and amethyst dog statues.  Oh My GOD!  Again!  I am getting tired of a trip to something being really a cheap excuse to sell me something.  I was looking forward to some history about the wall, and the history of the city. No. Sales.  Nothing but.

The sour taste left in my mouth from the sales pitch was covered by the delicious dinner that night.  We had about 16 different types of dumplings.  Each course contained one dumpling/person.  Just as we finished one up they brought the next tray.  It was delicious.  They even shaped the dumplings like little rabbits etc.  Fun!

After dinner we headed home, and it was time to get on the ‘Net and update the blog, and the  pics.

Remember..  More pictures at http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed/photo/97791d68cc109bed6bf4568292625cf3/





Hong Kong (Xi’An) Day 15 (January 8, 2006)

10 01 2006

Luoyang to Xi’An

Writing this on the plane to Beijing from Xi’An.  Only about 45 minutes of flight time, between takeoff and landing…

We got up at the usual bright early time of 0630, and were down for breakfast by 0725.  Breakfast was, again,  a multicourse meal. Phew!  0800, and it was time to get on the bus.

After a short drive into the edge of Luoyang, we stopped, seemingly in the middle of a more rural residential neighborhood. We walked about a block, and then we arrived at a hole in the ground.  Quite a large hole.  It was about 10mx10m square, and inside it were various caves.  It turns out that people live there.  A family has been living there from generation to generation, even as the city grew around it.  It was very strange.  You could sit there and look down on these people living their lives.   There was an old woman of 96 years who had lived there all her life.  This has become quite the tourist attraction, and the old woman collects 2 RMB per person to allow you down to visit her home area.  That’s about $0.25 CDN.  Sure…  Down we went. It was interesting.  The walls of the pit were plastered with an adobe mud cement, and there were about 4 different caves, each one a room in the “house”.  There was also a “storage hole” within the complex, which  I think you’d have to be pretty small to get into.  You got lowered down by a rope, and got your goods, and then came back up again… Scary.  The kitchen was small, and they use compressed coal to cook with.  It appears to be quite clean, as I didn’t see any serious soot.  The old lady herself would pose for pictures in her bedroom, which  was well equipped with a small DVD/TV combo.  Apparently the 2 RMB fee has been paying off.  Good for her.  We spent about 30 minutes at the cave dwelling, and then it was off to see the oldest Buddhist temple in China – The White Horse Temple.

View of the Cave dwelling from above:

The temple was cool.  There was a horse statue there that was 1400 years old.  This temple was the first one built, when buddhism was first brought to China.  We had a good tour of the temple, and there were a lot of opportunities for photos. There were many worshippers at the temple, and they would go from one temple to the next, offering incense, and praying.  The furthest room was the library, where the original texts were stored.  It was beginning to get a bit overwhelming trying to remember all the monk names, as well as the different Buddhas at this point.

Buddhas in the main temple:

Horse in front of temple:

From the temple, we began our long journey to Xi’An.  two hours into the trip, we were at Sanmen gorge, where we had planned to see the dam.  Apparently heightened security concerns mean that the dam is no longer visitable.  Instead, we went to a museum holding the tomb of an ancient noble from the Guo and Zhou eras.  Stuff here was over 4000 years old.  Each tomb had been found with different numbers of food and drink containers, depending on your status.  Also, many jade articles were found, with some elaborate diagrams, considering how long ago in time this was.  Also in the tombs were entire horse carcasses and chariot remains.  Again, the belief that in the afterlife the dead would need these articles. The jade was interesting.  There was a belief that if all the body openings were covered with jade, then the body would be preserved from decaying.  They had made ornate jade masks to cover the face, and and entire layout of jade, which would have been woven into fabric to cover the deceased body.  Unfortunately – no photos allowed 😦

Train passing by cave dwellings (note the terracing for the farmland):

Back onto the bus for a 2.5 hour drive to Xi’An.  The drive was a fascinating view into the rural life of the Chinese, as well as a great insight to their highway system.  As we drove along, you could see small clusters of about 10 homes, surrounded by farmland.  It would appear that the 10 homes formed a small community of farmers.  This is in stark contrast to North American farming, where one home has acres of land between it and the next.  I learned later, that the farms are owned by the government, but the farmers can work the land as they see fit.  If they make a profit, then they will be taxed, but they will be able to keep some money.  Fair enough.

As Xi’An is located on the Yellow River Plateau, we skirted the Yellow river a couple of times, and you could really see the awesome power and size of this river.  There was a rail bridge at one point that seemed to be over a kilometre long, just to cross the river.  Impressive.  The views were stunning, but unfortunately with the dust, and haze in the air, it limited the visibility somewhat.  Throughout the trip I have been plagued by the haze.  It’s almost impossible to shoot good pictures of landscapes, as they disappear into the haze so quickly.  As we approached Xi’An we were able to see Hua San, one of the holy mountains in China.  It was a massive ridge, and given the flat, undulating nature of everything around, it was all the more impressive. 

Hua San:

Approaching Xi’An from Luoyang, you could tell that the air was more moist, as there was snow on the ground, and waterways appeared to hold more water than the dry arid environment from which we came.

Communist slogan on a toll booth – remarkable for the lack of these things:

We arrived in Xi’An, just  in time to see the sun set.  Due to high amount of dust in the air, it was bright red fireball, settling onto the city.  A great welcome to China’s ancient capital. 

Our first stop in the city was dinner.  Again – sumptuous 12 dish dinner.  We were whisked off to the hotel where we were to stay for the next two nights, and had 20 minutes to settle in before we were headed out to see a show of classical dances and music from the Tang dynasty.  Again, being low season, the show was not going to be held in a large auditorium, but rather a small raised stage in a restaurant.  Odd, but more intimate.  There were many tourists here.  Im guesing it’s te place that all the tours take their customers.  The show was elaborate, and the dancers excellent.  There were women dancers dancing the “silk dance”, and male dancers doing various percussion and dance routines.  The whole show was very good, and my vantage point afforded some excellent photo opportunities.

Silk Dance:

Home from the show, it was back to the hotel room, to transfer pictures, and write some more.  The usual yadda yadda.  Bed at 0130.  A bit late.

More pics at http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed





Falling behind – sorry

9 01 2006

Sorry folks.  Been falling behind in the daily updates.

The problem is that we have been taking about 200 photos every day, and I’m trying to keep a copy back on my home PC.  My FTP server has been flaky, and so I’ve been spending too much tech support time on that.  I’m now trying a tool called Foldershare (recently acquired by MS).  I think it might just do what I need.  Finally.  And I’m only about a GB of data behind 😦

Hope to get the last couple of days updated when I’m on the plane to Beijing tomorrow.

Sunset in Xi’An:

More photos up:  http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed





Hong Kong (Luoyang) Day 14 (January 7, 2006)

8 01 2006

Zhengzhou to Luoyang

We got up at 0630, had breakfast at 0730, and were on the road by 0800. This, it would seem, is to be the regular routine.  Oh well, I can get used to it.  We got outside, and it was definitely winter.  Probably around -5C.  We settled in for the ride.  We were going to the birthplace of Zen Buddhism – The Shaolin temple!  As we approached, we picked up our local tour guide who would explain a lot about the history of the area, and about the Shaolin temple itself.

Before getting to the temple grounds we stopped at a Jade market.  They sold all kinds of jade, most mined in the local Songshan mountains.  It was beautiful.  I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as white jade.  They had many Buddhist jade statues, and pendants.  Many of them were quite beautiful, and inexpensive.  The problem was that I can’t think of what I’d do with one.  It was at this shop that I noticed that the shopkeepers are VERY attentive.  If you show even the slightest interest in something, they pull it off the shelf, and lay it out. They also bring out 3 or 4 other items that are similar, and try to convince you of how great it would be for you to own one.  Attentive is an understatement.  Aggressive would be more correct.  There was a HUGE jade boat, and I took a picture of it. It was spectacular.

From the shop, it was a short drive to the Shaolin temple. The temple was founded in 495 AD, and Bodhidharma came to the Shaolin in the Songshan mountains in 517 AD.  He was the founder of Chinse Zen Buddhism.  He apparently sat in meditation for 9 years in a cave in the mountain to be enlightened.  9 years!  Shaolin monks once saved the emperor Li Shimin during the Tang dynasty, and were afforded special status by the emperor. The Qing dynasty outlawed the martial arts, and as such many fires beset the temple during that period, and shortly after.  Luckily the stone artifacts were not destroyed.

We walked through the temple, and learned about the different stages of the temple.  Being winter, it was pretty quiet.  It helped to be able to understand the solitude that the setting afforded during its earlier time.  We learned about Hui Ke, who cut waited in a snow storm for the Boddidharma to complete his meditation so that he could ask to study under him.  His devotion was so sincere that he even cut off his left arm to prove it!  This display of devotion earned him the right to study under the Boddidharma. 

The artwork was exquisite, and the stories and history were quite interesting.  There is one building in which you can see the indentations caused by generations of monks practicing their ritual martial arts.  There are also Gingko trees in the courtyard with small holes in them – a result of the monks practicing “finger Gong Fu”.  Ouch!

Two of the heavenly kings guarding the temple:

After the temple, we headed to the pagoda forest.  It was a cemetery for monks.  Different number of levels indicated differing stature as a monk.  9 was for emperors, and 7 meant he had saved someone’s life. 5 was for most monks.

Pagoda forest:

There were two pagodas remaining intact from the Tang dynasty – over 1200 years ago!  They were really old, and the oldest is propped up, as the recent weathering has not been kind.  It was kind of eerie, just like walking through a “regular cemetery”.  We took a little shuttle back to where we had gotten out of the bus, and you could see the various Gong Fu students practicing their art.

The oldest pagoda:

We left the temple to go to lunch, and on the way to the restaurant, we passed the many different Gong Fu schools that line the road to the Shaolin temple.  There are probably over 50 different schools.  Some with as many as 7500 students!  Lunch was hearty, and we enjoyed a different local beer again.

The next thing on the list was a Gong Fu show by the Shaolin Temple Monks!  As a bonus, since it was the low season, we were getting a private show.  Wow.  We obviously got front row seats.  The monks performed many truly amazing feats of body control, such as hanging by their neck, and being balanced on spear points.  They had us try to lay a solid punch into an older monk, and he didn’t even seem fazed.  These guys have their training down very well.  After the show, they marketed some VCD’s and some joint lotion.  We picked up a VCD.  It wasn’t very expensive, and I always enjoy watching the Shaolin monks.

Various Monk pictures:




With that complete, we were all bundled back onto the bus, and headed off to Luoyang.  The drive was interesting, as the Chinese landscape in this province is very dry, and the hills have been extensively terraced for agriculture.  There were many caves in the hillsides in which our guide told us people lived.  I dunno.

We arrived at our next destination around 1430.  The Longmen caves. These caves had been carved into the wall of the cliff since the Tang dynasty.  Each cave, or grotto, had a carving of a Buddha, or Buddhas.  The caves were exquisite.  They were, unfortunately, defaced by vandals, thieves, treasure hunters and the weather.  One interesting danger the caves faced was the changing dynasties.  You see one dynasty worked to destroy the works of a previous one, as they didn’t want people to maintain any old allegiances.  Too bad, as many of the works were very good, other than having a head chipped off, for example.  There was a beautiful “Lotus Cave”, with a huge lotus blossom carved in the roof. There was one cave with over 10,000 Buddha’ carved into the walls, some as small as 3 cm tall.  Each was unique in its form (seated/standing/waving etc) The prime attraction was the 17m high seated Buddha, and the surrounding carvings.  These carvings were huge,and intricate. Incredible craftsmanship.

Wall of the 10,000 Buddha cave:

Lotus blossom cave:

Evening came quickly, and it was good to get to our hotel in Luoyang.  We had dinner, and settled into our rooms at the Luoyang Peony Hotel.  It was a very nice hotel, but the one in Zhengzhou was just a bit nicer, and seemed a bit more modern.

It’s REALLY late – time to get some sleep!  More tomorrow.

Pictures at http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed





Hong Kong (Zhengzhou) Day 13 (January 6, 2006)

7 01 2006

Hong Kong to Zhengzhou

We got up at 0630.  Had to make sure everything was ready!  Last night I had plugged in all the chargers, made sure all the batteries were good in full charge, all the cameras, and their supporting cards were ready.  My job was easy.  Mrs D had to try to figure out how we were going to pack eight days of clothing.  In the morning, we made sure the appartment was clean, that all the windows were closed and that the various electric outlets were turned off (that’s right, you can turn off individual outlets in Hong Kong – cool!).

We headed out by 0830, with our 50lb luggage, cameras, and laptop.  We kept our fleece and Gore Tex jackets in a separate carry on bag, so that we’d be ready for the cold weather in China.  We had to take the bus to the Airport express train, so we heaved our luggage on the bus, and found a spot.  This meant that we sat squished in with all the commuters, and that we tried to keep from having our luggage tip over and kill some poor small Asian 🙂  Thankfully we took the bus to the terminus, so we didn’t have to fight others to get out, otherwise we might still have been on the bus!  From the bus, it was a quick walk over to the MTR station which had the airport express train.  Once we got there, the train had just arrived, so we settled into its very comfortable seats, and settled in for the ride.  The ride had only three stops, and then we were at the airport.  Quick, and smooth.  Nice.  Vancouver needs something like this.

We got to the airport with about 15 minutes to kill before we had to meet our tour guide.  We met our guide at 1010. She took our passports, and our main luggage, to check it in, and to get the various forms filled out with our information.  We headed out to get a little breakfast, since we hadn’t had much to eat when we left home this morning.  We wandered around a bit, and ate at “Popeye’s”  Don’t.  For that matter, if you can plan enough in advance, don’t eat at the airport at all. Everything is REALLY expensive, and the Popeye’s food was nowhere near the quality of food that I had been getting used to while traveling around Hong Kong.  We stopped at a magazine stand, where I could finally get an English language magazine.  It only cost a small fortune 😦

We were back at the meeting point at 1130, and met the other members of our tour.  It was a family of 6, from New Zealand and Hong Kong.  Small tour. Excellent.  We had to be at the departure gate by 1200, so we headed through the airport.  It was MUCH busier than it was when we arrived.  People moving everywhere, coming and going.  We hung around the gate for a while, and then boarding began for the plane.  It was a 737, much smaller than the 747-400 we flew to Hong Kong in.   We were seated in block with our fellow tourists.  Not too much chance to chat with them, other than back in the waiting lounge.  They seemed quite nice.

The flight lasted about 2.5 hours, and then we arrived in Zhengzhou.  The local temperature was 0C, much colder than the 14C that we left in Hong Kong.  I was only wearing my fleece vest, so I garnered quite a few looks as I got off the plane, and gathered my luggage.  I definitely need to get something warmer on before we spent too much time in this colder weather.  Out came my fleece jacket, and Mrs D’s gloves, and hat.  We met our local tour guide here, and found out that she will be with us from Zhengzhou through to Xian.  We will be traveling in a minibus, that holds about 15 people, so it’s pretty roomy.

The bus:

We headed out on the bus, and travelled through the streets of Zhengzhou.  It was interesting to see the different home styles, as compared to Guangzhou. Roofs on the houses were flat, as there really isn’t very much rain to shed.  The area is quite dry, being on the edge of the Gobi desert.  Our tour guide talked alot, basically telling various stories about Chinese history, and some of the details about our upcoming tour (in Cantonese).  After some time, we came up to our first scenic point.  The Yellow river.  It was about 1500 when we got there, so the sun was low, and the wind was up.  It felt MUCH colder.  Of course, I still hadn’t got my gloves and hat out, so I almost froze.  Our guide explained many things about the Yellow river, all of which I didn’t understand. I got some basic translations from Mrs D, and asked a few questions myself (via Mrs D.)  I got a cool picture of a man poling along the river.

The bridge across the river is 5km.  At its widest point, the river is 4.8km wide, when in full flood.

The fisherman:

Bell tower spotted while leaving the river:

After the river, we stopped at a little shop, selling the local berry – dried, mixed, powdered.. you name it.  It was quite an interesting shop, and they had samples.  It was OK, but nothing that we wanted to buy.  Interestingly this shop was only minimally heated. It was probably -2C outside, and if we were lucky it was 1C inside.  Brrrr.  The salespeople were friendly, and certainly wanted to help you get what you wanted.

Mrs D and the fruit:

That stop completed, we headed off again.  This time to dinner.  We went to a restaurant in Zhengzhou, and ate local fare.  It was a 12 plate dinner!  There were many dishes that seemed similar to what I’ve had in Vancouver, but there were lots of different things that I hadn’t had before as well.  We had a local Zhengzhou beer (thos of us that were drinking beer), and ended with dessert of Water melon. Interestingly you will find locals selling watermelon out of the back of their “trucks”.  Apparently you can buy one for $0.20CDN  They are quite sweet, and very flavourul.  The restaurant was a bit “chilly.  I sense a disturbing trend.  It was definitely better at the end of the meal with a large meal in your belly.

Watermelon vendor:

We were taken next to the hotel, Jing Qiao Hotel.  It’s a 4 star hotel, and it felt like it.  The staff were very professional, and the rooms were spacious, and well equipped.  There was internet in the room, and it worked!  I stayed up transferring some photos, and updating previous days’ blog entries, while Mrs D just passed out.  I called it a night at 2230, as we had a busy day planned ahead in Luoyang and area.

Cool building on the way to the hotel:

Photos at http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed





Hong Kong Day 12 (January 5, 2006)

6 01 2006

We went to Ocean Park today. 

Woke up at 0800, and watched a bit of the news. Apparently Hong Kong is under a sever cold weather warning.  Emergency shelters are being opened up.  The highs during this time are expected to be…. 15C  Yup.  Extreme cold warning.  I had to chuckle.

We took in our laundry to the cleaners.  Then we headed off to Ocean Park.  We walked down to the bus stop, and hopped on the bus to take us to Ocean Park.  We got there quickly, and were into Ocean Park by 1015.  Pleasant place, clean, and well kept.  It was a Thursday, so the crowds were thin.  The sky was heavy.  It really felt like rain.  Humidity was over 85%. I was concerned that we’d be rained upon.   We zipped in, and got quickly to the cable cars so that we could get up to the headland area.   Once on the cable car, the views of Deepwater, Repulse, and Stanley bays were great, other than the haze.  It was pretty windy, but the cable car ride was smooth.

Once up on the headlands, we headed over to the shark tank.  It was cool. They had sawfish, a great white, rays.  All gliding smoothly through the water, effortlessly.  The teeth on  the sharks were huge, and numerous.  You definitely didn’t want one of these guys chomping on you. 

Ray:

We then continued over to the atoll reef.  It was very interesting.  you started at the tide pool,  and then you get to spiral deeper and deeper to see larger and larger animals as you descend around the coral reef. 

Reef fish pics:

Barracuda!

From the atoll reef, we went for a ride on the ferris wheel.  It was a gentle wheel, and afforded some great views over the Hong Kong area.  Unfortunately the wind and haze really put a damper on the beauty. 

View from the Ferris Wheel:

After the ferris wheel, it was over to the “Pacific Pier” to see the seals and sea lions.  After much walking, we arrived at the pier to find it closed. 😦  We could see them through the construction fence, but there really wasn’t any vantage point.

We went down to the “Mine train”, and I tried to convince Mrs D to ride the ‘coaster.  She would have none of that, so I rode it by myself.  They don’t make these coasters particularly roomy. I’m pretty sure I don’t fit the profile of the average asian customer, so my knees pushed up against the front of the car and the safety bar, when pushed down all the way, pretty much seemed to crush me.  I was obviously not going to slip out of this car, that’s for sure.  It was a great ride.  Short, but great.  The neat thing is that the majority of the rides in the park are free!

Me on the mine train:

We headed to the cable car again, and went down to the lowlands.  Once there, we checked out the two giant pandas and went over to the butterfly house.  The pandas are quite serene, and relaxed, but given the size of these things, it would seem unwise to disturb them.  They are very nimble with their front paws, picking up bamboo, and eating it.  They apparently spend about 50% of their day eating, 44% of their day sleeping. 

Lunch time:

The butterfly house was hot, steamy and full of aromatic flowers.  The butterflies were fluttering about, and some of the people passing through were a little freaked by all the flying insects.  I thougth it was very interesting, and took some great pictures. 

Beautiful resting butterfly:

On our way out of the park,  we stopped by the flamingos and watched as they twisted their necks in an almost rubberlike fashion. The Macaws were colourful and stately with the odd squawk at passers-by.  It was already 1500, and we had been in the park for five hours!  How  time flies!  We had to get going, so stopped only briefly at the souvenir shop, and headed out.  On to the bus, and a stop at the laundry.  We were home by almost 1630.  Mrs D suggested we head out around 1800 and try a “Steak Specialty” restaurant near the apartment.  Basically, it was pretty much like a restaurant we have back in Vancouver (Richmond), Pestos.  We had a good set meal, Borsch, Argentinean beef with veggies and fries as well as a nice iced coffee.

Christine called while we were finishing dinner, and came over to the apartment with us to give us some RMB for our trip to the mainland.  She also took the time to go through the itinerary with me, so that I could do a quick ‘Net lookup on the key points, since the tour will be all in Cantonese.

After getting the last two days of blogging caught up, I went to sleep at 2330, and had the alarm set for 0700, so that we’d be ready to go in the morning.

It appears that while I’m behind the great firewall of China, I am unable to get to my Google Mail (among other websites), and not able to use MSN 😦  If you wish to get in touch with me, please use the comment form on the blog.  It’s the only way.

Some more pics up on http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed





Hong Kong (Macau) Day 11 (January 4, 2006)

5 01 2006

Up and at ’em – it was time to go to Macau.  We got down to the Ferry terminus for 0930, and met Maggie and Francis again.  They would be our unofficial tour guides.  Excellent, since I had no idea what to expect in Macau.

Macau landmark tower:

We hopped on a 0945 TurboJet ferry, and the ride was probably about 50 minutes.  The ferries leave every 15 minutes, and there seems to be a steady stream of customers heading for the heritage or gambling of Macau.  The ride was so smooth that I took advantage of the time to get some shuteye.  Once off the ferry, we were assailed by people trying to sell us tours of the city by 3 wheeled bike.  It must the big white tourist look on me, but they were pretty persistant.  We walked past them, and found a taxi to take us to the old town.  Beautiful place.  There were all kinds of buildings with old Portugese architecture, and due to the strong Roman Catholic influence, more than a couple of churches, intermingled with the various Buddhist shrines.

Portuguese architecture on Macau:

Same plaza reflected in a Christmas decoration:

One of the first orders of the day was to get some food.  We went to an old, traditional noodle house with a long history on Macau.  We had delicious noodles, and portuguese pork buns – a favourite of Maggie’s.  They WERE quite good.  After lunch, we headed around a few of the old streets, and found a GREAT gelatto place.  They had flavours like “Rose Tea”, and “Pink Grapefruit”.  We sampled various, and I settled on Mango and Lemon.  Mrs D had Guava and Coconut.  All were delicious.

Now…time for some sightseeing.  We went over to the famous St.Paul’s ruins.  The only remaining wall (the front wall) from an ancient church, founded by the “Jesus Society”, and completed in 1602.  Unfortunately a fire destroyed most of the church in the 1800’s

Ruins of St Paul’s:

After the Church, we walked up to the Museum, which was built on the old grounds of the central fort in Macau.  There are various archeological expositions that have unearthed the original foundations of the fort.  The museum documented the arrival of the Portuguese, and how they integrated the two cultures in Macau.  It displayed how the Portuguese helped to bring tea and silk to the rest of Europe, and how the Chinese influence mixed with the European to form unique blend of cultures in Macau.  Very interesting.

We then wandered around an area which had 1000’s of lillies in full bloom.  The air was thick with the rich,beautiful aroma.  We took many pictures of these beautiful flowers.

Lillies:

After the flowers, we headed to Taipa island and found some places selling various jerkies.  They even sold “Wild boar”!  We picked up some spicy beef jerky, as well as some bakery goods.  Lots of stuff that is unique to Macau.  At the bakery, you could watch them making the sesame cookies, and the egg roll cookies.  It was quite interesting to watch.

Jerkies:

Egg roll cookies:

After wandering about, we went down to the Sands casino, and I went to play a little blackjack while the other three checked out the casino and area.  Thankfully we were to meet after a fairly short time, because quite quickly I did my part to donate money to the casino coffers.  $200HKD minimum bets will chew through your bankroll pretty quickly if you don’t win a few hands 😦

Losing completed, we grabbed another taxi, and asked him to take us to a classical portuguese restaurant.  We had crab, chicken, pork, seafood rice in pineapple, and a vegetarian dish.  It was very tasty and again very filling!

This brought us to 2100 so we headed back to the ferry, and managed to get on a 2145 boat, 15 minutes ahead of our booked ferry.  Being on “stand-by” I thought we mind end up sitting miles apart.  We ended up sitting at a little table. Not that it mattered too much.  Again, the trip was an opportunity to catch some shuteye.

Once back in Hong Kong, we said Goodbye to Maggie and Francis, and headed to the roof of parkade of the Star Ferry terminal to get some night shots since I now have a tripod.  I got good pics of the HSBC tower, the IFC tower, and another.

Buildings:

We got home finally around 00:30, resulting in us going to sleep almost instantly.

I don’t know when my next update will be, since we are leaving to Xian and Beijing tomorrow.  Keep well!  I’ll post when I can.





Hong Kong Day 10 (January 3, 2005)

5 01 2006

Meeting relatives, meeting Jackie Chan!

We started the day out fairly leisurely.  First it was down to IFC in Central to meet up with Color, and then we all headed out to see Mrs D’s Auntie number 1 on Dad’s side. (10 aunts and uncles on that side).  We then headed down to the nursing home where Auntie’s husband now stays.  The Chinese nursing home seems to be busier than the Canadian ones that I’ve seen.  They had the residents moving around, and exercising, singing and generally keeping busy.  Auntie #1 visits her husband almost every day.  It must be pretty tiring.  That’s love and devotion for you. Of course due to the SARS issue and Avian flu, there were some pretty tight restrictions on making sure you weren’t bringing in any illnesses that might kill the residents, so there was serious washing, and you were advised to wear the little surgical masks if you had any respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. coughed).

After some pictures together, we headed out for Dim Sum down in Central.  We ate at Luk Yu Teahouse, a famous old restaurant, which Mrs D’s family has eaten at for many years.  The restaurant has hosted various celebrities and politicians in their past.  It was quite a nice place, and they performed the older style of service, including washing the tea leaves before making the tea.  Quite interesting.  We were to be joined by Vicki, Simon, Justin, as well as Shirley and Kin yin and their kids whom we had met the other day (Island Shangri La). It seemed to be a revolving lunch, since Auntie #10 and her son showed up on his lunch break, and then Vicki, Simon and Justin.  Everybody ordered a bit more food as they came in.  Mrs D and I had to go for our “tour orientation” meeting, so we didn’t actually see the others, but apparently lunch went on until about 1500!  Luckily Hong Kong people walk everywhere to counter all the food that they eat.

The tour orientation was at the tour company’s office.  They have a whole floor of a tower down in Central.  Quite the large operation.  While waiting, you could have some buns, cake, tea, coffee.  After a little while someone came out and explained that there were only going to be 8 of us on the tour, and that we were the only ones that showed up for the orientation.  Good news:  The tour is on, and being a small group means you can ask your tour guide more stuff.  Bad news:  it is ONLY in Cantonese, and you can’t get ANY documentation in English.  They told us about the very cold dry weather that we were likely to encounter, and that that we shouldn’t drink ANY water from the hotels.  Great – I REALLY look forward to getting home and having a cold glass of water from the tap, WITHOUT boiling it first.

After the tour orientation, we headed home, and Mrs D slept for a bit while I typed up the blog entry for a couple of days previous. It’s really hard to keep up!  Then the call came!  We were going to be able to meet Jackie Chan!!!  At 2100 we were going to go meet him on the set of his new movie, “Project BB”.  Quick trip to http://www.imdb.com/ to look up recent information and filmography, make sure the camera batteries were charged.  All that was left was the waiting.  2100 came, and Color came by to pick us up.  She had Kin Yin, Alastair, and Larry in the car already so we squeezed in too!  Up we went to the location.  I was surprised at how low key the set was, compared to ones in Vancouver that I’ve seen.  If you didn’t know something was going on, you might drive right by.  When we got there, they were shooting a scene in which the 3 main characters run into a van, and drive away.  It’s about 15 seconds long. 

Jackie Chan, during a scene from Project BB:

Our contact met us, and explained what was happening, and that we could stay close to the production team if we stayed quiet.  It was amazing!  I got to shoot pictures from almost right over the shoulder of the camera man.  Of course, I had to use 1600 ISO, and no flash, but I still got some cool shots.  Jackie came out and said “Hi!” to all of us, and shook hands, then he had to go back to work.  It wasn’t much, but it was more than I had expected, so I was pretty happy.  Then I found out that he would come back out later for some pictures. Cool!  I was busy shooting away with my 100-300mm telephoto lens, and captured a few shots of him between filming:

Then suddenly Mrs D says “He’s coming.  Change lenses!!!”  Panic lens change, and it’s time to stand up with Jackie for pictures.  I hand my camera to Mrs D, and one of Jackie’s assistants takes it from her to take the picture.  It was a whirlwind of picture taking. Flash, Click, Flash Click….and he was back to work. Wow! 

Group shot with Jackie Chan:

Jackie Chan taking time for some photos:

After the pictures I paused to take a look at the pics on my camera.  The assistant had stood too close with my camera, and both Jackie and I ended up with some pretty washed out faces 😦  It looks like Mrs D’s picture worked well,and so did the group shot, of all of us.  Apparently one of our group had called his friends to tell them about it, so they were there at the right time as well, so Jackie said “Take a picture of them with me, and email it to them.”  Of course when I took the picture with my camera, it worked perfectly 😦  I’m sure the guys will be happy with their shot!  We stayed around for a while, and a few more people started showing up.  A press photographer even tried to sneak into the set area by sticking with us.  He probably got one or two shots before they asked him to leave.  We were VIPs! 

We watched them shoot a bit more of the scene, but by then it was getting to be 2230, and there was a suggestion that the crowd was beginning to grow too large.  We figured we’d oblige, and head off, so they could ask the others to disperse.  So…..

Apparently a bit later, Jackie comes off from a shoot, and asks “Where did they go?”  He was going to spend more time with us!!!  Arrrggghhh!  Well, we had no idea.  It was too bad, I would have liked to have spent more time actually talking to him.  He very much seems like a nice man.  I understand that he will autograph a copy of his book for me.  Wow!  Talk about nice!  Amazing.

By the time we got home, we were hungry and tired, so we dug into the fridge for a bit of 2 day old pizza and ribs.  We ate them, and washed them down with some Tsing Tao while I poured over my photos and put the best ones up on the photo blog.





Hong Kong Day 9 (January 2, 2006)

4 01 2006

Hiking at Sai Kung, shopping at Mong Kok, and Japanese dining

Having been up until about 0230 the night before, sleeping in sounded like a good plan to me.  It didn’t to Mrs Dragonspeed, as she had me up and going by 0800!  We were going hiking today!  Hiking???  In Hong Kong?  You’ve got to be kidding!  No, she wasn’t.  Our friends, Maggie and Francis, came by to pick us up, as the hiking area was going to be pretty far from where we lived.  This makes sense, as really the only area to hike around where we live is from building to building. 🙂  We are going hiking in Sai Kung – 10km at that! Hmmm.

The drive out is quite nice, and we pass quite a few “suburban” areas which have much more moderate height apartment buildings, and it doesn’t feel like they are trying to outreach each other to be the first to reach the sky.  When we arrive at the hike starting point, the parking almost full.  We manage to squeeze into one of the last available parking spots.  There are tour buses coming in, and they have their own parking lot.  Apparently, this is Hong Kong’s natural get away, for all 8 million!  People come out here, and bike, walk, jog, barbeque, and just get away from the city.  We meet up with 4 other friends of Maggie and Francis, bringing us to an even 8 hikers.  We have water ready. I’m set. We’re all set.  Now….  Let’s get the taxi!  Yup, a taxi.  The area where we REALLY start hiking is vehicle restricted, so we have to line up for a taxi.  We take two cabs, and are at the actual starting point of the hike, and ready to go at 0930 on our way to the village of Sai wan. 
The “trail” is a a concrete path.  It winds up and down hills, hugs to the hillsides, and generally does all the things you’d expect a trail to do except it’s made from concrete.  It’s a sidewalk! And, the people!! 

Not exactly a secluded wilderness hike:

What a beautiful location though. I can understand why so many people come.  You start by skirting around one of the hills, with a beautiful view of one of the fresh water reservoirs for Hong Kong.  At this time of year, the water is drawn down pretty low, but it will be brimming with water again in a few months time.  We hiked for about 30 minutes, and came across Tai Long Wan beach, and it’s associated village.  We stopped, had some noodles for breakfast, and enjoyed the wind while listening to the waves lapping up on the beach.  Idyllic.

After breakfast, I realized that as the pale white guy in the crowd I was at a pretty high risk of sunburn.  Francis lent me his ball cap.  Nice cap – Gore Tex! The hike left the village along the beautiful white sand beach, and up into the cliffs above the ocean. 

Islands from the cliffs:

View of the white sand beaches:

The vantage point was perfect.  It was a warm sunny day, but the breeze helped keep things from feeling too hot.  Of course I was in no way dressed for any kind of serious hiking, so the long dark blue pants I was wearing certainly warmed me up! Down from the cliffs, we descended into a nice little village, and stopped again – This time for some ice coffee.  Tough hiking.  The rest was great, and I think I may have snoozed a short bit. 

Mrs Dragonspeed enjoying a cool drink at the beachside restaurant:

Well, off we went again…  This time we walked along some lowlands, and there were many little birds singing in the trees.  I couldn’t get a picture of any of them, as they don’t stay still very long.  It was at this point that I realized that the back of my neck was a bit tender.  Yes.  Sunburn on the 2nd of January.  That’s a first for me.  After about .5-1km the hill started in earnest.  When we got to the pass we had climbed 150m in a very shot time, simply hugging the hillside, and hiking upwards (along the cement path)  At the pass there was another trail that headed up to “Sharp Peak” and it was an actual dirt trail.  The sign at the trailhead read “Very rugged and dangerous terrain ahead.  Do not proceed”  Basically, this would be where the REAL trail starts!  LOL!  After some pics and a rest, it was all downhill, as we made our way to the bottom where we walked along the quiet protected  ocean bay, and then took a ferry.  From the ferry, we took a bus back to the parking lot, and we completed a grand circle.

Two unknown bird species I shot while on the hike.  Do you know what they are?

Francis,  if you are reading this, I need to find out all the names of the villages and beaches, through which we passed.  pls. comment here, or email me.

Hiking complete, it was now time to shop!  We were headed down to Mong Kok again.  I am still looking for a cell phone, so what better place to compare.  Maggie and Francis left us to do our shopping while they grabbed a bite to eat. We wandered through jam packed aisles of people selling towels, sweats, pants, trinkets…  you name it.  Then, a couple of blocks over to the cell phone street.  We went into one little building, and never left.  We visited 15-20 stores in a space of about 50m or less.  It was crazy.  Bare minimum shop space.  I think I finally have decided on the Motorola 3i.  1800 came quickly and we had to hurry to go meet Maggie and Francis.  When we met up with them, we hadn’t bought anything, and they had!  So much for us shopping and them eating!  Mrs D has lost her Chinese touch!  LOL!

I suggested that we take them out for dinner, as they have been so kind to drive us around everywhere and show us all the cool sites.  We all agree to head out to a Japanese restaurant called “Ginza Kuraudo Japanese Restaurant“.  This was quite different from the Japanese food which we have had in Vancouver, and the set meal for 4 consited of two different hot pots and some interesting appetizers.  It was quite good, albeit also a bit pricey.  When it came to settle the bill, we were scooped again!  The Chinese tradition of getting the bill before your dining partners have a chance had caught us again!  So much for taking them out for dinner.  Thanks again guys, but you really have stop doing that!

After dinner it was home, and time to post a few pictures, then off to bed.  It had been a long day without much rest the night before.

Pictures available at: http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed








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